In August 2021, a zombie-themed 10K PFP project named Deadfellaz launched on the Ethereum blockchain and quickly rose to become one of the most recognizable and popular NFT projects out there. Branching out to release follow-up collections and establish brand partnerships in the process, Deadfellaz has cemented itself as a beloved name in the NFT community, with its founder emerging as a strong advocate of Web3 ideals and artist empowerment. Here’s a breakdown of the spooky NFT project and why it has been so important to the space.
What is the Deadfellaz NFT project?
The Deadfellaz collection consists of 9,999 zombie-themed, undead NFTs that emerged from both a love of horror and a desire to fill a gender gap in the PFP project world. Before the collection came out (and even today), most avatar projects represented men in their artwork. The NFTs in the Deadfellaz collection, however, are genderless.
The collection’s NFTs are generated from a mixture of 300 unique traits that are a combination of fun and cute features, including streetwear items, 90s animation aesthetics, and gaming culture. Instead of particular traits being rare, specific combinations of traits result in rarity. Secret traits in the collection aren’t necessarily listed but discovered.
The project has done over 31,377 ETH in sales volume on OpenSea, generating over $80 million in revenue. Over 6,500 holders — AKA “the horde” — own a Deadfellaz NFT, including celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Lionel Richie, Pussy Riot, Steve Aoki, Alexis Ohanian, and Gary Vee. Its floor price currently sits at 0.82 ETH.
Who started Deadfellaz?
Two figures known as Betty and Psych started the collection in August 2021. Betty, who chose to remain anonymous until mid-2022, is affectionately known as the “Horde Mother” of the collection and community. The couple started the project together when they realized that no other NFT projects on the market stood out to them.
“I didn’t feel like I saw myself in anything that was available,” Betty told NFT Evening. “And I’m a strong believer in identifying gaps or things that you wish existed and then set out to bring those things to reality. Because I think that if you’re feeling that then other people must be feeling that too.”
Deadfellaz Infected S1 and S2
In October 2021 and 2022, Deadfellaz dropped Deadfellaz Infected S1 and S2, collections of 186 and 83 Halloween-themed NFTs, respectively. S1 featured artwork by 13 artists in the community, including Cool Cats’ artist Colin Eagan (Clon), Ghxsts, Stephy Fung, Smoochies, and MarktheHabibi. S2 features Deadfellaz artwork created by Psych and inspired by artists like ThankYouX, Yosnier, Claire Silver, Shinsei Galverse, The Haas Brothers, Emonee LaRussa, and more. Each artist creates a Deadfellaz-inspired piece in their own style — and in return, Psych designs a Deadfellaz NFT inspired by the artist themselves.
Betty Pop Horror
Alongside Deadefellaz Infected S1, the project dropped a limited edition Betty Pop Horror collection in October 2021. The collection featured 225 NFTs showing Betty in various interpretations of classic horror icons from pop culture.
In February 2022, the Deadfellaz team released Deadfrenz, a companion project of 13,000 NFTs that compliments the original collection and emphasizes gaming. These “ex-zoo animal” NFTs consist of undead rabbits, tigers, bats, birds, and other species. The utility focus of the project will be a play-to-earn NFT trading card game that forms the basis of “multiple interlinked Deadfellaz gaming and media IPs,” according to the Deadfellaz blog.
Brand partnerships and collaborations
In April 2022, Deadfellaz signed with United Talent Agency (UTA) to work together to expand the brand IP into merchandising, live events, and gaming opportunities. That same month, they partnered with snowboard and ski maker Gilson to offer Deadfellaz holders the chance to order a snowboard or pair of skis with their Deadfellaz NFT artwork on them. The team has also paired up with digital art marketplace KnownOrigin to spotlight collaborators and artists from the Deadfellaz ecosystem and partnered with luxury fashion and streetwear NFT collectibles site neuno.
The fight for artist empowerment in Web3
Beyond the Deadfellaz project, Betty has emerged as one of the NFT space’s leading voices in the fight to protect creator royalties, solidifying herself as a figurehead of artist empowerment and Web3 ideals in the process. “Take [royalties] away, and we have to rely again on institutions. It takes our power away, which disproportionally affects marginalized creators. I’m here to protect those people and champion those people,” she explained during a panel at nft now and Mana Common’s The Gateway: A Web3 Metropolis.
A frequent critic of practices from platforms and projects in the space that disenfranchise artists and builders, Betty’s role as a beacon for the community to rally around properly emerged when OpenSea announced that it was considering doing away with royalties enforcement on its platform for existing collections.
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Creator royalties, sometimes called creator fees, are optional payments given to an artist when their work changes hands on the secondary market. They generally constitute a small cut of each secondary sale but have enabled artists to make a living off of their work, allowing them to continue creating value for the broader market in turn. They are one of the key reasons why the Web3 space is what it is today, but they aren’t technically a must — it’s up to platforms and community members to decide if they want to uphold them.
This is why it was so jarring to see OpenSea, whose existing collections have arguably helped create the success the platform has seen in recent years, float the idea of revoking royalties enforcement. Calling on community members to meet under one roof and discuss ways they could unite under a singularly directed banner, Betty helped ignite the NFT community’s first unionization movement in response to the proposed plan. Along with her mobilization efforts and a slew of critiques lobbed at OpenSea from the NFT community’s most prominent figures, the platform altered its course and announced it would continue to enforce royalties for its existing collections.
In the future, expect Deadfellaz to continue to expand on its existing partnership with UTA to leverage its IP into the gaming and merchandising industries. For example, its December collaboration with Wrangler brought an end-of-year Deadfellaz-styled denim jacket surprise to community members. Like many other projects, it has forgone the idea of a roadmap in favor of checking in with its community on its Discord and in regular blog post updates. The project’s DAO, DAO OF THE DEAD, is coming “soon,” the team says, so keep an eye out for that in 2023.
Overall, Deadfellaz has been a breath of fresh air and creative playfulness in the NFT ecosystem, whose leaders are committed to standing up for the ethos behind Web3. As the pillars of that ethos continue to undergo an industry-wide stress test, that’s something the entire NFT space should cheer on.